Midday on December 6, 2015, I got a call that Pipeline had gone from maxed out to somewhat manageable, so I jumped in the car and headed down to watch. Big Pipeline is a spectacle, almost surreal. I walked into the Reef house at Off-The-Wall and met up with Gabe Garcia and Mitch Crews on the back deck, and we all watched a massive, Third Reef set steamroll the lineup. It was as big as Pipe can handle and only a handful of guys were out. It looked terrifying.
Not one minute after the lineup had cleared from that Third Reef wash-through, Evan Geiselman took off on a clean, 10-foot, Second Reef bomb. As he pulled into a massive tube and pumped toward an exit we all jumped to our feet, and when the wave shut down in front of him, we watched and waited for him to come up, grab his board and paddle back out.
Evan didn’t surface.
As I sprinted down the beach toward the gathering crowd, toward my friend — I could only watch as bodyboarder Andre Botha struggled to keep Evan’s lifeless body above the water and get him to the beach. Other surfers jumped in the swirling rip to help.
I got there as Botha, Mick Fanning, Jason Frederico, Oliver Kurtz, Rob Brown, Brian Toth and a group of other surfers and lifeguards dragged Evan up the beach. He was unconscious, blueish gray and foaming at the mouth. He’d spent three waves and three minutes under water. I thought he was dead. At that moment, he probably was.
I called his brother, Eric, and told him he needed to come down to Pipe. Evan was hurt. I didn’t know what else to say.
The lifeguards worked frantically. People cried. People prayed. I bowed my head, closed my eyes and silently asked whatever powers may exist in our universe to just let Evan breathe. The beach was strangely silent and I’m certain everyone around was thinking the same thing. Just breathe, Evan. Just breathe.
And, miraculously, he did. He coughed and spit and when I opened my eyes I could see that a glimmer of life had come back into his. He wasn’t in the clear just yet, but he was alive.
Evan was loaded into an ambulance behind me and whisked away. Botha stood nearby in shock. A few people gave him high-fives and hugs but it was obvious he didn’t want the attention. As soon as the ambulance was out of sight he grabbed his board and jumped back in the ocean. “In that moment I didn’t know what else to do,” he’d later say. “The only thing I could think was to go back out surfing.”
This issue is about the bright side of Hawaii. About everything we love about the two months the surfing world — the surfing family — spends together on the North Shore. A lot happened between November and the start of 2016, and though we can’t fit all of it inside this magazine, we sure as hell tried. In the following pages you’ll find a beautifully crafted ode to Oahu by Beau Flemister [The Bright Side, Pg. 36] along with a list of to-dos we think will help make every North Shore visit an unforgettable one. You’ll find out how North Shore locals Jamie O’Brien, Koa Rothman, Mark Healey and Eli Olson get their kicks [“Their Idea of Fun” Pg. 56]. You’ll find bright sites. Bright photos. Bright experiences. And finally, you’ll find Evan’s personal account of his Pipeline experience, as he reflects on going to the darkest place of all, taking a breath, and coming back to the brightness. —Zander Morton